This is the fourth winter that we've descended upon Rusty and Kevin at their desert home in Scottsdale, Arizona, Gotta Go Ranch. Year one was 'let's try Arizona - something new and different'. We left for Scottsdale together following a most memorable News Years Eve party and dance (-if you can't find a dance partner just grab a chair- was the theme for the evening) after the final day of Death Valley Encounter 2004 (a live country band and flowing Tequila made the night memorable and festive, though some of the memories are a little fuzzy, but then those grainy videos that John took proved that indeed those 'did I really do that?' moments did happen :).
For those who don't know Kevin and Rusty, they are two incredibly generous, gracious, and life-loving guys whose career paths recently brought them to Phoenix. Rusty is a ballet dancer who grew up in Detroit and began taking dance lessons at a young age to correct a spinal condition - he loved the dance, and early on decided to pursue a career as a professional ballet dancer. Rusty retired this year from performing, and he now teaches ballet and has found a second career as a yoga instructor. He is incredibly talented, and we keep telling him he is 'guru material'. It will be fun to see how far he goes with his new career. Kevin is a British-born-Canadian-citizen who spent his youth searching for the meaning of life and eventually his charm, wit, business acumen and love of a challenge - as well as a series of life-coincidence events launched him into the world of ballet at the administrative level. His ability took him to the top - Montreal, and Vancouver, and finally Phoenix, where 5 years ago he was offered the job of executive director of the Phoenix Ballet.
We first met Kevin and Rusty in 2000 at the Fort Howes ride in Montana. Rusty and Kevin and another ballet-endurance riding friend were doing a pokey 100 (Rusty's first 100) and I was doing a zippy 100 (a first place and BC for Kruschev, his demonstration ride for the Compiegne WEC). We happened to share a table together at breakfast the morning after and shared laughs over our different rides (me first, Rusty last) and the wonders of doing a 100 at any speed and the feeling of accomplishment simply to have finished a 100 ('Go Motto!'). (To Finish Is To Win). Since then they've been dear and easy friends, the kind of friendship that you can just slip back into at any time. They open their home, and corrals and find room for us and whatever beasts we bring with us.
So once again (and again and again) we're back, enjoying a spectacular winter '09 here (above average temps, sun sun sun) and watching the Sun Worship Gang grow. Two years ago friends Jim and Clydea Hastie came to visit us here at Gotta Go Ranch. They had tried other warm weather escapes such as Yuma, Ca. , but after meeting Kevin and Rusty and seeing everything that Scottsdale had to offer they decided to buy a house and move down here (from Idaho, where they had been subdividing their ranch and selling lots) permanently. No more snow! And then Gene and Sue Nance moved down from Oregon last year. The circle of endurance riding friends is growing.
This year Brian and Darla Malkoske decided to test the 'winter down south' theory. Brian is a long time friend of K & R from British Columbia, and it's been great to have them down here! Good spirits, easy going, good company, good cooking (Darla, not Brian :) and it's been a wonderful mix of personalities. And then Rusty's 'long lost' cousin Ali came for a long weekend, on break from college in Colorado. And two days ago Sandra Fratellier (sp) came for a week. Sandra is French transplant, living and working in New York City as a photo retouch artist for the past 5 years, and commuting on weekends to NJ where she is boarding her endurance horse. She and Kevin became friends on Facebook, and now here she is! Fun and easy and fitting right in.
The thing about doing the 'sun thing' is that it seems to stay with a person for weeks after - like a tan - something to look at and make you remember the feel of the sun on your skin when you're back in the wintry world. There must be a brain hormone equivalent of melatonin - close your eyes and remember trotting through the sand washes with the cactus and blue sky horizon, and transport back to a warm and sunny moment, and feel better just for remembering.